The Danish Straits are the three channels connecting the Baltic Sea to the North Sea through the Kattegat and the Skagerrak. The Danish Straits are becoming an increasingly important route for Russian oil exports to Europe and is an oil transit chokepoint.
External maritime transport in the Baltic moves through the Danish Straits and the Kiel Canal, the busiest waterway in the world in terms of small and mid-sized container vessel traffic. About 2,000 ships can be found in the Baltic at any moment (around 3,500 to 5,000 each month). Approximately half of this fleet are cargo vessels, 17 percent are tankers and 11 are passenger vessels. 15 percent of the world’s cargo transport is found in the Baltic Sea and 70 million tonnes of oil were shipped in 2008, expecting an increase of a 40 percent by 2015.
About three million barrels per day (bbl/d) flowed through this waterway in 2010, with most of this product moving westward. Russia has increasingly been shifting its crude oil exports to its Baltic ports, especially the relatively new port of Primorsk, which accounted for half of the exports through the Straits. An estimated 0.3 million bbl/d of crude oil, primarily from Norway, flowed eastward to Scandinavia markets.
About one-third of the westward exports through the Straits are for refined products, coming from Baltic Sea ports such as Talliin, Venstpils and St. Petersburg.